Investigating Honey Creek


HRWC, with funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, is working to identify and control or eliminate bacteria and other pathogen sources in Honey Creek. We are currently implementing projects within critical areas of the watershed that will address the sources of the contamination. One project is investigating areas that were identified during the watershed management planning process as having human-sourced bacteria.

In 2013 HRWC conducted Bacterial Source Tracking (BST) on water samples from Honey Creek locations that we found to exceed the Total Body Contact standard for E. coli. A laboratory analyzed the E. coli DNA material for the presence of five markers which identify its source as human, cow, dog, horse, or goose. Samples from two target critical areas were identified as having strong indication of human-sourced bacteria.

Enter the Dog Detectives

Kenna alerting at creek.

To confirm the lab results and determine where this bacteria was coming from, HRWC took an innovative approach. We enlisted the help of a couple of dog detectives! These are not just any dogs, they are trained specifically to detect human sewage in surface water and storm water systems caused by failing septic systems, leaking sewer lines or illicit discharges. Environmental Canine Services, LLC (ECS), helped us investigate the two branches of Honey Creek identified during the BST process. We were also joined by staff from the Washtenaw Water Resources Commissioners Office, and Washtenaw County Public Health. Dogs, Kenna and Abbey, were diligent workers and a delight to watch.

Abbey alerting at creek.

Great Lakes Now recently reported on this innovative approach, interviewing Karen Reynolds, President of ECS, during her visit to Michigan.

There is still more to do. HRWC will further analyze the results from this latest investigation, and determine next steps with project partners.

More information about our work in Honey Creek

And remember, you can help keep bacteria out of our streams by maintaining your septic system.